How to bring the outdoors to Easter

In recent years, I feel like people have been moving away from candy in Easter baskets and moving more towards toys. I think it’s a great idea, but I’m not a big stuff person. I don’t like to collect things or give things or really even get things. Too many things in my house make me twitchy. I have a special hatred for little doohickey toys. You know, the things that spin in the wind or roll across your floor, or otherwise capture your kid’s attention for 15 seconds before they break and end up stashed in a corner somewhere until you throw them out in a fit of rage one day?

I really hate those things.

So I like to use Easter baskets as a way to celebrate spring and to get the kids excited about the fun yet to come once we can see the ground again. Here are some ideas for what you can drop in a basket/box/bag/pile on the kitchen table. All of these can be found at toy stores, outdoor gear stores, or Amazon if you must. And there’s not a doohickey in the bunch.

Don’t do Easter or Easter baskets? Try it for May Day. Or just throw spring a big Welcome Home party. It deserves it.

On with the goods:

A handheld microscope, binoculars, or magnifying glass. Pick your price point here. Any of these are great options and will liven up hanging out in the yard or woods. Check out bugs, bark, rocks…or use them to try to find the buds that should be appearing on the trees any day now.

A bug house. We have a big pop-up net one that’s about three feet tall, but there are also little screen boxes if space is a concern. Some have magnifying lenses already attached which is cool, just be careful not to fry the bugs! Our bug house is full all summer long with a rotating guest list of crickets, spiders, caterpillars, frogs, salamanders… you name it. Just make sure everyone gets released in a timely fashion. Incidentally, we own not one but two bug vacuums,  which are little gentle vacuums that suck a bug up into a container for easy capture. Both of these were gifts–I never would have thought to purchase one–and they are probably the most used toys my kids own.

Seeds. Preferably pick some that can be planted in a pot versus the ground. There’s nothing quite as cruel as giving your kids seeds they can’t plant for a month or two. Sunflowers are a good picks and can be transplanted once the ground warms up. Snap peas could be fun if you don’t mind giving them something to climb on. Cat grass for your cat, herbs for the kitchen…what would most interest your kid?

Garden tools. They do make kid-size tools and plastic toy varieties, but I tend to just buy regular hand tools for my kids. Unless you are buying for a toddler, a standard trowel or hand cultivator is small enough for a child to manage and they are usually made better. Giving the kids their own set of tools will mean you won’t be irritated when they abscond with your trowel for ditch digging purposes.

Bird book, bug book, plant book, or any other guide book to wildlife in your local area. Perhaps the amount of time my children spend absorbed in the Field Guide to North American Birds is abnormal, but this kind of thing is a hit in my house. The pictures are fun to look at and it certainly will help them slowly learn to identify what they see outdoors. I may get my kids this Critters of Maine book from Inland Fisheries and Wildlife this year.

Simple outdoor toys. Okay, fine, yes, toys, but I specifically choose ones intended to lure them outside. Jump ropes, balls, frisbees, sidewalk chalk if you are lucky enough to have pavement handy. They don’t work very well on our gravel driveway, alas. I have, sadly, tried.

Candy. Oh, go on. Do it. Give them the candy. Nothing fuels a good run around the yard like a chocolate bunny or a package of Peeps, right?

Cherie Galyean

About Cherie Galyean

In a perfect world, Cherie Galyean would spend hours every day chasing her kids up hiking trails, pretending to garden, and baking things. Instead, she works full-time in the non-profit sector and fits those other things in-between loads of laundry in her free time. A Maine native with multiple hometowns, she currently lives on Mount Desert Island with her husband, seven-year-old daughter, five-year-old son, and the best shelter mutt in the world.